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When you build digital stuff all day, you develop opinions. Lots of opinions.


Digital Trends

The Rebirth of Infrastructure Macro trends in technology are so all-consuming that asking someone in technology to explain them is like asking a fish to explain water. Luckily, there are people like Andreesen Horowitz general partner, Martin Casado who anticipated current trends and is capable of explaining what is happening. In the podcast below, Casado explains how the move from hardware to software, the move from software to services and the rise of the developer as a buying center is transforming IT infrastructure. In the old days, adding functionality into the enterprise meant building an appliance, a “dumb box” and inserting it at the network level. However, the adoption of linux at the enterprise level has changed this. Now it is possible to insert functionality as just software, no hardware necessary. Eliminating hardware reduced barriers to entry and allowed startups to focus on pure software development. It also made it cheaper to fund these startups since a pure software play is cheaper than building hardware. This also powered the movement of “software as a service” since the ready availability of insertion points meant that companies could integrate complex functionality into their IT infrastructure with little or no customization. Finally, developers began to influence buying decisions for infrastructure which weakened the old procurement procedures and devalued certifications and incumbent relationships. The end result of all these factors is that enterprise infrastructure is evolving at an accelerating rate in an environment that favors new players over incumbents. Application to Marketing: At least once a month, I have a conversation with a potential client in which they express doubts about the security/reliability of cloud computing, open source and SAAS. Inevitably, they end up choosing archaic infrastructure because it is “tried and tested.” And that’s fine. But the problem is that if you aren’t at least using linux, you have essentially rebuilt an environment from the early 90’s. It’s like Colonial Williamsburg for technology, right down to “Ye Olde Microsoft Certifications.” Anachronism has a certain charm. But these individuals are essentially eliminating the possibility of any kind of additional functionality in the future. It’s not infrastructure, it’s a time capsule. Next Steps: Do NOT make the same technology decisions people were making 20 years ago. Ever. In anything. Read More Infrastructure’s Rebirth in Practice Let’s all agree that if a massive change is happening in enterprise technology, Google is at least aware of it. If infrastructure was really changing fundamentally, one might expect Google to be investing in technologies that made it easier for systems to talk and functionality to be inserted. Which leads me to Google’s purchase of Apigee last week for $625 million. Apigee offers technology to build and maintain API’s (Application Processing Interfaces) – those little bits of code that allow different systems to talk to one another and share functionality. Apigee has been at the forefront of standardizing API’s so they are more reliable and easier to work with. Google obviously sees great value in allowing systems to talk and share. Application to Marketing: As API’s were first developed, they were intended to be narrowly functional – transmit these specific data points between these types of systems. Increasingly, they are now intended to be broadly functional – transmit multiple possible data points between multiple possible types of systems. This broad standardization makes it easier to work with API’s since they are not so idiosyncratic. With Apigee now part of Google, one would expect their technology to gain greater adoption. Next Steps: Thinking about an API? Consider Apigee Read More Spell Check for Memories Homo sapien sapiens have always been cyborgs. (Fire is one technology that has affected our evolution.) But we are becoming progressively more cyborg-like as time passes. A mundane example: I used to be quite good at spelling words. Now, I am utterly dependent on spell check and autocorrect. Our memories are also increasingly dependent on technology. I know the history of a project as a series of Slack messages, Jira issues and Github commits. I don’t even bother to retain the specifics any more. Life blogging was an attempt by some technologists to create a kind of virtual memory for all their life events through posts, images and check-ins. But the constant need to log information made life blogging impractical for most people. New apps like Fabric attempt to solve this problem by automating the logging of movement, images and actions, creating a highly searchable virtual memory for the activities of a person’s day. I wonder what effect it will have on memory when we are no longer required to retain the events of the day within our minds in order to recall them. Will a virtual memory lead to more forgetting? Application to Marketing: Excuse me while I climb back onto my “attribution” hobbyhorse. Right now, we see ads and we buy products. Most people would insist that, for them, there is no relationship between those two things. But marketing and sales data imply that people are more influenced by advertising than they are willing to admit. But which ads are effective? No one knows. True attribution demands that we can track what someone saw and what they purchased in a (hopefully) anonymized form. Apps that automatically track our movements and actions could provide this type of attribution. Memory being what it is, we would probably still insist that advertising did not affect us. But marketers would be able to see attribution data that would allow them to buy media more effectively. I just wish the whole thing didn’t feel like a massive invasion of privacy. (Attribution always does seem like a massive invasion of privacy.) Next Steps: There’s more UI and UX work to be done before virtual memory is really seamless for the user. Read More Javascript Eats the World Javascript was originally created in 1995 to add some spice to web pages. In those early days, no one believed it would catch on. Developers disparaged its structure and more powerful players in technology were promoting their own alternative technologies. But then a strange thing happened. None of the major tech companies would accept their competitor’s technology, so they failed to unite around an alternative standard. Javascript became a kind of technological demilitarized zone, the de facto standard since no standard could be agreed upon. As the open source movement replaced the old certificate and standards culture of development, javascript was perfectly poised to become a tool with many applications. Once javascript had conquered the world of websites and web apps, it was only natural that a generation of developers steeped in javascript would begin to look at desktop and native development. Javascript tools like Electron, React Native and Node Webkit now make it possible to develop desktop and mobile applications without deeper knowledge of C-based languages. Application to Marketing: From time to time, people ask my advice on developers they are thinking of hiring. I always start by looking at their knowledge of javascript. Sure, there are other valuable programming languages to know. But being ignorant of javascript frameworks like Angular, React, or Backbone reveal an appalling lack of curiosity and disengagement from the culture of development today. That is not a good sign. Hiring developers is hard when you’re not a developer. Trust me, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I stopped making as many mistakes when I learned enough javascript to know when someone was using it correctly. Next Steps: Learn some javascript or read about the latest new frameworks so you know what to ask about in an interview. Read More

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